Tuesday, November 1, 2022

What Have We Here?


Terry here, with our week's discussion: What changes in technology had the greatest impact on you in your writing career? 

 Ah, nostalgia! Papyrus. The quill pen. The ink pen. The ball point pen. The manual typewriter. The electric typewriter. The self-correcting electric typewriter. The IBM “ball” electric typewriter. The computer! 

 So yeah, things actually have gotten better. I used to type books, college papers (mine own, and others to make money) on a manual typewriter. And was delighted not to have to write them by hand. Even though if you made a mistake, correcting with white-out took almost as much time as it would to retype the whole damn page. Don't know what white-out is? You're better off. 

  A digression: My mother was an accomplished typist. During World War II when my father was overseas, she worked in a bomb factory in MacGregor, Texas, typing documents regarding the bombs. And there’s the thing: the typists who did this could not make an error, because they couldn’t do any corrections, for obvious reason having to do with spies (you thought that was a myth? Nope). If they made a mistake, they had to start over. 

  Back to regular programming. When I started sending out manuscripts I was thrilled to have an electric typewriter to work on. Those of us of a certain age remember having to send out big, fat manuscripts that took lots of postage—and double postage if you wanted the rejected manuscript returned. I eventually learned that when a rejected manuscript came back, I really couldn’t send it out again because it had been wrinkled and smudged, etc., so there was no need for return postage. 

 And then, somewhere along the line, TA DA! Computer! The internet. And we began to send out manuscripts without ever having to use a piece of paper. It’s heavenly. But the question wasn’t, what technology has made things easier—it’s what has made the greatest impact on my writing career? The computer is obviously number one. There are those who would argue that by making typing a manuscript easy, it is spawned sloppy writing. I’ll leave that to someone else to argue. I’m just grateful for the tech. 

 But there is a close second. I’m not even sure it’s a technological innovation so much as an add-on to the computer revolution: Email. I think of the countless hours I used to spend talking on the phone or meeting people in person to talk about writing—asking questions, getting tips, finding out the latest publishing news. Email freed up an enormous amount of time. I never really liked talking on the phone, and was often reluctant to use the phone even to get information I needed. Email changed that. To say I was an early adopter is an understatement. I may have the first person to use it! 

I can write to anyone to get information and people actually write back! Googling things is the best way to get general information, but to actually get human interaction and have discussions, it’s email. I still have friends for whom email seems to be their last resort. They hardly seem to be able to send and receive. I can’t help wondering why it’s so different for different people. Luddite comes to mind. Not that I am a techno-whiz. But I do use technology to my advantage. For example, I send out a newsletter every now and then—by email. 

 I get fan mail—email fan mail. I complain to the New York Times—by email. This morning I emailed my agent to figure out a time and place for us to meet when I’m in town next week. Instead of having to call and say, “How you doing? What’s up? Shall we talk about….blah blah blah, it was “When and where?” 

 And then, of course, there’s the iphone. But that will have to wait for another time. It’s too big!

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